How do you measure the child-friendliness of a neighbourhood? Here’s one test. Would you, as a parent of an 8-year-old child living in that neighbourhood, let your child make their own way to a shop and buy a popsicle (or any variety of ice-cream) – and could your child get the frozen treat back home before it melted?
It’s an idea I mentioned in passing a couple of months ago, in my post announcing my visit to Australia, after Lenore Skenazy had picked up on it in her free range kids blog. I really like the concept. It neatly captures the key factors that shape children’s experiences of their neighbourhood – accessibility of shops and facilities, safety, walking/cycling options, parental attitudes – in a simple, easy-to-picture scenario.
So I was pleased to discover, on an American urbanism website Place Shakers, an account of the origins of the popsicle test (see the comments as well as the post). Turns out it was promoted by some serious urbanists for a while back in the 90s.
Like the post’s author Scott Doyon, I am struck by the way that this simple rule-of-thumb went just a little bit viral, thanks to Lenore and then the hugely popular Boing Boing website. The test elegantly fleshes out what advocates like me are getting at when we use abstract phrases like ‘child-friendly community’. It also highlights that making places more child-friendly is first and foremost a job for planners and politicians, not parents.
What do you think of the popsicle test? Could you use it in your work? How would your neighbourhood fare?